7 minutes reading time (1488 words)

Dentists and Their Hobbies



Hobbies eh? Who has the time for them? With the crazy hours that many dentists work, the very word hobby would likely be something they come across when they read about the lives of other people, but I’m used to something that I heard back when I was active in Politics.

“Give a task to a busy person and they’ll find a way to get it done.”

 It does make sense. I get a lot more done both with work and with other paperwork or “general stuff for home and life” on one of my busy days when I’m travelling between towns and working multiple jobs than when I’m home on my two weekends a month off. It’s not like I don’t try on those days off. I actually have a schedule of work to do. The never-ending paperwork, the poems I must submit to the journals I wish to send them to, reading the weekend papers, catching up on all the poetry magazines I’d subscribed to which are in a pile rivalling great mountains. But it never happens. The too-important-to-miss weekend papers are piling up beside the sofa with my wife giving me the evils every weekend that I add to them, the poems remain unwritten or not sent, the poetry journals are still in their postal packaging.

Yet on my working days, I may only have a few minutes or an hour at best before bed and I’ve read a few poems and written one just before an important submission deadline. I get through paperwork and shift them from a pre-pile to a post-pile, but the pile remains, the pile remains! It may have to do with inertia too! One of action and getting things done. If that is a common pattern, I shudder to think of what retirement will bring beyond the first month of “YAAYYY!!! I’m free!!!”

Hobbies are important though. Dentistry is a very high-stress profession and we all know or know of sad cases where dentists have been through immense mental pain and either sought and received help or ended their lives. I’m not recommending hobbies as a panacea to the problems of stress but it is a part of the solution. I find some solace in the facebook group “Mental Dental”. You get an idea of the near insane struggles of many dentists and there is a lot of help and support in the group. I’d recommend it if you’re not already there.

Historically dental practices were small units with maybe one dentist, a nurse and a receptionist. Dentists operated in silos and lived largely isolated lives save for the working day. There wasn’t much networking and only the usual suspects were regular attenders at conferences and meetings. The move to corporate ownership has largely made that model redundant except at a few remaining small independent private practices. That surely must be a good thing, but it would drive one crazy to mainly socialise with other dentists!

Friends, family and the local community are a big part of the mix but let me return to hobbies. The one time and place where you have something really to yourself on your own terms with nobody else’s schedule to follow and no deadlines! How sweet is that? You don’t even have a regulator who’s judging how you live, how you work etc! You get to switch off from the daily grind, you get to zone out from the trials and tribulations of clinical practice.

I know of many dentists and their hobbies, many with the routine things: walks, sports, music, art, or like me literary pursuits, and those with what some may see as outlandish stuff like game-hunting (which as we know brought some grief to an American dentist). There are those who use hobbies to improve their own skills as they do with arts and crafts: pottery, wax and woodwork, sculpture all come to mind. The good incomes that most dentists earn when compared with the general population can support all manner of hobbies.

I could have been a fiction or non-fiction writer, but I don’t think I could spare the time without a significant cut in hours worked and income, so poetry it is! I have always enjoyed poetry and it took on greater meaning during the early days of the pandemic when many of us thought that our jobs could really kill us in a short timeframe. What started as a coping mechanism to help distract me from the doom and gloom of Q2 2020 turned into a publishing spree. One of my poems was accepted in August 2020, then another in September 2020 and then on it went. Online, in print, in several countries around the world but predominantly in the UK and the USA. I rediscovered my love for fixed-form poetry and am known mainly for my villanelles although I’m also writing a good number of Sonnets, Ghazals, Pantoums and Haiku. Ye Follow? No? Not to worry. When Tony Jacobs very kindly asked me to regularly contribute to GDPUK again, he also invited me to introduce some of my poetry from time to time. I will over the next few months and years introduce various forms of poetry. Some of them will be previously published pieces (published again here with due acknowledgement to the first publishers, needless to say I hold the copyrights to all my work) and others will be published for the very first time in this blog and on this website. There are a few dentist-poets out there and I even know of one in India who is now a full-time poet and publisher! I would encourage readers of the blog to try their own and post as a reply/comment or try their hand at placing/publishing the poems themselves.

The Villanelle is said to have originated as an Italian harvest song and came to us from French poetry. It has become popular in English poetry since the late 19th Century.  Do not go gentle into that good night is possibly one of the most popular examples.

I have heard fellow poets complain that villanelles are very difficult to write, but I have a contrarian take on this. I believe them to be very easy to write!

Let’s look at the rules of the form. It is a six-stanza poem of nineteen lines with five stanzas of three lines each and a final one of four lines. The first line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the second and fourth stanzas and the third line of the first stanza is repeated as the last line of the third and fifth stanzas. Those two lines then follow each other to form the last two lines of the poem in its final stanza. The rhyme scheme is aba which I will demonstrate in example poems. Essentially, once you’ve figured out the first stanza, your rhyme scheme is set and you’ve already got nine of the poem’s nineteen lines ready! Simples! It is also a good idea to maintain a consistent syllable count for each line.

In the beginning

In the beginning, we had everything

It was all so compact, so small, a fact

How was it packed so tight, into nothing?

We should talk about this, it is something

But how should I approach the priest? With tact?

In the beginning, we had everything

I will take it well, tell me anything

Just be honest, do not put on an act

How was it packed so tight, into nothing?

I am crying like a toddler, teething

We must keep our heads about us, intact

In the beginning, we had everything

We should look deeper at this, unearthing

They should not hide from us, should not redact

How was it packed so tight, into nothing?

I must tell everyone who is breathing

Just imagine the moment, the impact

In the beginning, we had everything

How was it packed so tight, into nothing?


First published in Spellbinder, A Literary and Art Quarterly, Issue 3: Summer 2021



It is a terrible situation

Major decisions in intensive care

Who gets to live? A negotiation

Hello! We need your complete attention

This is real now, not a distant scare

It is a terrible situation

Please follow the rules, proceed with caution

Do not take anyone back to your lair

Who gets to live? A negotiation

The way out is clear: vaccination

Rather than suffer hunger for air

It is a terrible situation

Better than any treatment: prevention

You must come forward and do your fair share

Who gets to live? A negotiation

A really difficult decision

A burden doctors should not have to bear

It is a terrible situation

Who gets to live? A negotiation


This poem is now published in this blog and was born after a conversation with a hospital consultant during the COVID-19 crisis.

Seventeenth March 2024


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